Interpretations of CEO public apologies for the banking crisis: Attributions of credit, blame and responsibility

Owen Hargie, Karyn Stapleton, Dennis Tourish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article analyses the public testimony of four banking CEOs to the Banking Crisis Inquiry of the Treasury Committee of the UK House of Commons in 2009. Utilizing a discursive and interpretive approach, we explore how they attributed responsibility and blame for the crisis through the medium of public apologies. A number of taxonomies of apology are employed to provide an interpretive framework for the analysis. We conclude that the CEO discourse is characterized by expressions of regret, attempts to articulate alignment with others affected by the crisis and dissociation from the events being scrutinized, in order to avoid direct culpability for the crisis and invoke instead the spectre of impersonal global events which mitigates personal responsibility. We therefore characterize the discourse studied as an example of apology avoidance, and consider the constraints on apology which senior CEOs evidently feel they face.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)721-742
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 18 Oct 2010

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